Police on job, but keep eyes and ears open (Sixth in a series on how safe is the Indian capital)

December 13th, 2008 - 12:22 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 13 (IANS) As a crime reporter who keeps an eye on the security establishment, I am asked after each terror attack by friends and colleagues eager to know if the Indian capital is secure and whether Delhi Police can prevent future bombings and take on marauding terrorists.My answer is a sad ‘no’. Unfortunately, even many in Delhi Police share this opinion.

“We can’t guarantee that we can prevent terror attacks,” a senior officer told IANS, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

A city of over 15 million people, Delhi has a police force of just about 60,000. Minus those engaged in administrative work and VIP security, the police strength drops drastically.

“We don’t have the manpower to deploy police personnel at every nook and corner of the city,” another senior officer told IANS, speaking on condition he was not named.

During and after the Nov 26 terror attacks when 10 terrorists terrorised Mumbai for over 60 hours, I was repeatedly asked if Delhi Police can handle a similar situation.

In reality, it would be unwise to ignore the looming threats from the extremists who strike at will and make a mockery of the ill-equipped and unprofessional police institutions across the country.

But Delhi Police, though by and large no different from its counterparts in the states, does have an edge over the others. As it does not come under the purview of the state government, it receives its funds and other resources directly from the centre.

This apart, its officers are more accountable for major crimes.

Like the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), Delhi Police too has a Special Cell - an expert wing to combat terrorism. It has earned the reputation of cracking many terror modules. But it has also been accused of falsely framing suspects.

The Special Cell is equipped with modern arms and the best technical assistance. Undoubtedly, its human and technical intelligence gathering resources are far better than the other state police forces.

But the Delhi Police brass admit that they are not sure of foiling terrorist attacks, even as they say the Special Cell is well-equipped and has some of the best minds working for it.

Delhi Police has also the option of calling for quick assistance from the National Security Guard (NSG) - whose commandos gunned down the terrorists in Mumbai - as other central paramilitary forces whose headquarters are based in the capital. The decision makers are also in Delhi.

After the Mumbai attacks, Delhi Police are raising an elite Quick Reaction Team (QRT) comprising commandos armed with sophisticated weapons. They would be posted across the capital.

“The problem of terrorism is very huge and we always try to do our best to prevent terror attacks. In case of a hostage-like situation, we firmly believe that we can react fast by quickly mobilising our men and the best resources,” another Delhi Police officer said.

But other complain that they feel handicapped due to inadequate skilled manpower for collection of actionable intelligence.

In the past decade, the capital’s population has increased manifold as so has the crime graph. But the number of policemen has remained static.

But can lack of manpower and resources be an excuse for recurring terror attacks?

There are Delhi Police officers who refuse to take the entire blame for the failure to check terrorists.

The citizens, they say, do not play the role they are expected to.

“People must react and report to us suspicious objects and individuals. They can be our eyes and ears. Most cybercafe owners and landlords never follow the advisories issued by us just to earn extra bucks,” one officer complained.

One can only hope this blame game ends — and soon.

(Sahil Makkar can be contacted at sahil.m@ians.in)

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